Competencies and the Recognition of Prior Learning: Bridging the Divide

Loffie Naudé


This essay shares some information on a recognition of prior learning (RPL) project that focused on RPL for access and RPL for advanced standing processes for postgraduate-level qualifications -- especially the Master of Business Administration (MBA). To design an RPL process that will ensure access for success, the team involved considered conceptualization of what competency means as it impacts directly on RPL processes. Taking several views on “competence” into consideration, it became clear that the debates on competencies in higher education are polarized. This essay explores these contestations associated with the first South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF) of 1995 compared to the second NQF of 2008 (NQF Act 67 of 2008, 2009), and how they impact RPL practices. The essay takes the reader through power struggles and the notion of neoliberalism; arguments related to the supremacy of cognitive skills versus the importance of vocational practice; and changes made to the second NQF as a response to academic critique on the initial NQF. This essay provides information on an RPL project in higher education whereby both cognitive knowledge and practical knowledge are incorporated into the assessment process. The third space model (Naude, 2013) was applied using the heuristic assessment process. This model yielded promising results.

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